Andrew’s world in Japan

Clipboarder.2016.01.23-004Andrew Artist & researcher based in KL since 2009, passionately exploring thcreative process & connecting with other creative people.




Celebrations are at the Heart of Culture An Introduction to a Series on Celebrations in Japan

Rules of writing dictate it is best not to start an article with an ‘I’ let alone a sentence with a negative. This is especially true for a professional piece. So the previous sentence should buffer this potentially disastrous situation. You see I fi nd myself confl icted. The topic being entertained here and curled about my tongue is that of a wedding. My friends Eric and Ai’s wedding in Osaka several years back. Has enough time passed or too much for any discussion of it? Regardless of these nagging doubts, our main goal is to explore celebrations. This being the only wedding in Japan I’ve ever attended makes my pool of reference a little limited. I have been involved in a number of celebrations though, around the world, so a macro look stands a better chance of making sense. Birthdays, festivals and sakura gatherings I do have plenty, just unfortunately limited stock of photos.

Celebrations mark any number of moments in our lives. Particular occasions like weddings and births are supposed to be singular in nature. Not occurring more then once, or at least infrequently. “We reveal to ourselves and others what is important to us by the way we celebrate.” (Noël Piper)


This topic likely has me in her crosshairs because it’s now the New Year as I write this. That only happens once a year obviously. Although it does depend on the culture because the lunar new year aka Chinese New Year, is only a few weeks off. Festivals and celebrations are generally deeply rooted in cultural religions and traditions. Japan is no different. Over thousands of millennia practices have been built for acknowledging and celebration of unique occasions. Recent times have seen a shift toward Western cultural infl uences in some aspects. New Years, for example, is held not during the lunar calendar time, but last night, same as in the west. Although certainly there are people who continue to observe the previous time. Who knows, the future may bring it back into prominence. That is the wonderful nature of culture. Our current time fi nds our societies around the globe experiencing a shift. Values and practices, priorities and lifestyles are seemingly vastly different then just 10 years ago because of technologies. Japan is often at the forefront, literally pioneers in much of the recent technological advances. Could we soon all just gather to celebrate via a ‘Skype’ meet-up call?

The future is tomorrow, so let’s concentrate on today. Yesterday we just enjoyed ‘Shogatsu’ also called ‘Oshogatsu.’ In Japan, businesses close for three days starting on the fi rst. Most people will return to their ancestral home to gather with family. Special dishes are prepared, and soba is usually an honored dish like turkey and sweet potatoes in the U.S. Many in Japan may still take time to make a pilgrimage to a shrine. Near Tokyo the mostClipboarder.2016.01.23-002 common destination is the Meiji Shrine. Are you wondering yet what any of this has to do with my friends wedding? Do not fear, I am not leading you astray. We are still on track.

Some other celebrations that occur yearly other then the aforementioned wedding and New Years are Obon, Seijin no Hi, Hina Matsuri and White day. Each is a celebration that has unique Japanese rituals and activities although the main purpose of these festivities has a relatively universal denominator globally. Over the course of the next few articles I’ll discuss these and likely mention smaller less known celebrations. The next part will review the one and only wedding I’ve attended thus far in Japan. See you then.